Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports in this week’s edition of the magazine that Al Sharpton has become President Barack Obama’s “go-to man on race” in Ferguson and elsewhere. Thrush tells the story as one of Sharpton’s own reform and revival, dwelling on his weight loss, his self-professed caution with words, and criticism (envy?) from his old allies on the left. Yet he leaves out a few crucial details that are important to the Sharpton story.
For one, Thrush makes no mention of Sharpton’s role in the Trayvon Martin fiasco. As Breitbart News reported at the time, Sharpton played a tripartite role. First, he used his activist network to inflame public outrage about the case, pushing the false line that Martin had been shot by a “white” man. Then, Sharpton used his primetime perch at MSNBC to report on the protests he was instigating. And finally, he was advising Obama throughout.
There is a reason Thrush leaves out Martin: it interferes with his attempt to portray Sharpton as a moderating influence, someone to whom the president and his arch-henchman Valerie Jarrett could turn to “talk down” the violent demonstrators, someone who represented “hardheaded pragmatism” rather than extremism. In reality, Sharpton’s role is to stoke divisions, acting as Obama’s agent, as well as his eyes and ears on the ground.
Another “tell” in Thrush’s piece is the omission of any reference to Yankel Rosenbaum, the Jewish religious student murdered by the mob Sharpton helped to incite in Crown Heights 20 years ago. Thrush writes that Sharpton “stoked black rage,” but leaves it at that.
There is no mention, either, of the deadly fire at Freddy’s Fashion Mart, or the fact that Sharpton has never made amends or apology for the Tawana Brawley fraud.
These omissions serve to sanitize Sharpton–and to racialize his critics and opponents. Sharpton’s “mere presence is an irritant to many white conservatives,” Thrush writes. He notes opposition from some black radicals, too, notably Cornel West, but in so doing reinforces a false perception of Sharpton as some kind of centrist–and, Thrush says, “the country’s most important black leader,” presumably more than Obama.
To be upset about Sharpton’s role, Thrush implies, you have to be part of “a Greek chorus of 50- and 60-something Gotham journalists,” i.e. old and unhip. He cited Michael Goodwin of the New York Post, who asked why Sharpton is not “politically toxic.”
But Thrush answers his own question in his profile. Sharpton survives because the media fail to report the facts, and because they use race, age, and politics against his critics.